Open Access Articles- Top Results for Photorefractive keratectomy

Photorefractive keratectomy

"LASEK" redirects here. For other uses, see LASEK (disambiguation).
Photorefractive keratectomy
File:US Navy 100217-N-7032B-023 Capt. David J. Tanzer, specialty leader of Navy Refractive Surgery and director of Refractive Surgery Program at Naval Medical Center San Diego, performs a photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) at Naval T.jpg
Photorefractive keratectomy at U.S. Naval Medical Center San Diego.
ICD-9-CM 11

Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) and Laser-Assisted Sub-Epithelial Keratectomy (or Laser Epithelial Keratomileusis[1]) (LASEK) are laser eye surgery procedures intended to correct a person's vision, reducing dependency on glasses or contact lenses. LASEK and PRK permanently change the shape of the anterior central cornea using an excimer laser to ablate (remove by vaporization) a small amount of tissue from the corneal stroma at the front of the eye, just under the corneal epithelium. The outer layer of the cornea is removed prior to the ablation. A computer system tracks the patient's eye position 60 to 4,000 times per second, depending on the brand of laser used, redirecting laser pulses for precise placement. Most modern lasers will automatically center on the patient's visual axis and will pause if the eye moves out of range and then resume ablating at that point after the patient's eye is re-centered.

The outer layer of the cornea, or epithelium, is a soft, rapidly regrowing layer in contact with the tear film that can completely replace itself from limbal stem cells within a few days with no loss of clarity. The deeper layers of the cornea, as opposed to the outer epithelium, are laid down early in life and have very limited regenerative capacity. The deeper layers, if reshaped by a laser or cut by a microtome, will remain that way permanently with only limited healing or remodelling. With PRK, the corneal epithelium is removed and discarded, allowing the cells to regenerate after the surgery. The procedure is distinct from LASIK (Laser-Assisted in-Situ Keratomileusis), a form of laser eye surgery where a permanent flap is created in the deeper layers of the cornea.


The first PRK procedure was performed in 1987 by Dr. Theo Seiler, then at the Free University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany.[2] The first procedure similar to LASEK was performed at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in 1996 by ophthalmologist, refractive surgeon, Dimitri Azar.[3] Dr. Massimo Camellin, an Italian surgeon, was the first to write a scientific publication about the new surgical technique in 1998, coining the term LASEK for laser epithelial keratomileusis.[4]

PRK versus LASIK

There have been a number of studies comparing LASIK to PRK. LASIK is associated with decreased inflammation and quicker recovery, but at the cost of decreased expression of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) at the surgical bed.[5] PRK, on the other hand, has longer recovery time with more postoperative discomfort and irritation, but rates of ocular dryness are less,[6][7][8] as only the epithelium is denuded in this approach. LASIK, on the other hand, involves creation of a corneal flap.[9] The medical literature is not uniform, however, regarding comparative effects on ocular dryness,[10] although the majority of research supports PRK as causing less reduction in tear film. Surgical technique has improved with time, and a more recent study has shown no difference in ocular dryness in LASIK or PRK at 12 months, as compared to pre-operative baseline, although interval assessments at months 1, 3 and 6 did show dryness in both groups.[11] Quantitative changes occurring at the eye surface are more pronounced with LASIK, but more irritation, pain and eyelid sticking are felt with PRK, which could be related to increased denervation with LASIK.[5][12] A systematic review that compared PRK and LASIK concluded that LASIK may probably offer benefits in terms of recovery time and pain, however the two interventions probably perform similarly after a period of one year.[13]

PRK does not create a permanent flap in the deeper corneal layers, while LASIK involves a mechanical microtome using a metal blade or a femtosecond laser microtome to create a 'flap' out of the outer cornea. As such, the cornea's structural integrity is less altered by PRK. The LASIK process covers the laser treated area with the flap of tissue which is from 100 to 180 micrometres thick. This flap can mute the nuances of the laser ablation, whereas PRK performs the laser ablation at the outer surface of the cornea. The use of the anti-metabolite mitomycin, which is referred as M-LASEK, can minimize the risk of post-operative haze in persons requiring larger PRK corrections, although the medication can worsen the dry eye that occurs after surgery in some patients.[14] Unlike LASIK, PRK does not involve a knife, microtome, or cutting laser, but there may be more pain and slower visual recovery. Unlike LASIK, PRK does not have an increased risk of dislocated corneal flap, which may occur with trauma after LASIK.

PRK versus LASEK

Although PRK and LASEK use basically the same technique, there are minor differences between them. In PRK, epithelium is removed and the outermost layer below the epithelium is treated with laser. In LASEK, epithelium is not removed, but an alcoholic solution is used to cause the epithelial cells to weaken; the surgeon will fold the epithelial layer out of the laser treatment field, and fold it back in its original place after the cornea has been reshaped by the laser.[15] If the epithelial flap is not strong enough to be laid back in its original place, it will be removed, and the LASEK procedure becomes a PRK procedure.[15] Recent studies show that removing the epithelial flap results in less pain and faster epithelial recovery after LASEK.[16] As a result, although alcohol is used to loosen the epithelium, surgeons are routinely discarding the epithelium, thus converting LASEK into alcohol assisted PRK surgery.[17]

Types of PRK

  • Traditional PRK

Uses Amoils Brush or a 'Hockey Stick' to remove the corneal epithelium before excimer laser ablation

  • Alcohol assisted PRK

Uses alcohol to loosen the corneal epithelium before its removal. This allows gentler surgery as it avoids the need for scrubbing or scraping to remove the corneal epithelium. This originated from LASEK, and essentially is LASEK but with removal of the corneal epithelial layer at the end of surgery.

Uses an excimer laser to remove the corneal epithelium. A one step, no touch technique is used where the excimer laser performs both epithelial removal and corneal reshaping sequentially. This procedure has been shown to result in less pain and faster healing of the corneal surface than alcohol assisted PRK.[18]

Types of LASEK

  • ASA (Advanced Surface Ablation) LASEK

Uses Amoils Brush and gas cooling to reduce the pain


Uses mitomycin in an attempt to reduce post-operative haze but is of dubious effectiveness.[19] Possible long-term side effects are unknown.[20]

PRK eligibility

Up to 80% of the myopic population may physically qualify as potential PRK candidates.[citation needed] There are a number of basic criteria which a potential candidate should satisfy:[citation needed]

  • Normal ocular health
  • Age 18 years or older
  • Stable refraction error (no noticeable change in the last year) correctable to 20/40 or better
  • Between −1.00 to −12.00 diopters of Myopia
  • Not pregnant at the time of surgery
  • Realistic expectations of the final results (with a complete understanding of the benefits, as well as the possible risks)
  • Pupil size 6 mm or less in a dark room is ideal (but some newer lasers may be acceptable for larger pupils)
  • Assessment of allergies, (e.g., pollen) where allergy may complicate the eyelid margins following surgery leading to dry eye.

There are also some pre-existing conditions that may complicate or preclude the treatment.[citation needed]

Possible complications

Some complications that can be temporary or permanent include:

  • Dry eyes[21]
  • Recurrent erosions during sleep
  • Long healing period
  • Pain[22]
  • Glare, halos, or starburst aberrations
  • Increased ocular straylight
  • Under- or over-correction
  • Recurrence of myopia
  • Corneal haze
  • Scarring
  • Reduced best corrected visual acuity
  • Reduced acuity in low light
  • Increased sensitivity

Dry eyes

As with other forms of refractive surgery, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, colloquially referred to as 'dry eye,' is the most common complication of PRK, and can be permanent. In more advanced cases, recurrent erosions occur during sleeping from adherence of the corneal epithelium to the upper eyelid with rapid eye movement. Adjuvant polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) with high Omega-3 content before and after surgery improves sicca, possibly due to their anti-inflammatory effects. Foods containing PUFAs include flax and fish oil.[23] Brush PRK to denude the epithelium, instead of alcohol based techniques, also result in quantitatively lower ocular dryness after surgery. The amount of corneal hazing after surgery is also decreased with brush technique.[24] The platelet activating factor LAU-0901 has shown effect in mitigating dry eye in mouse models.[25] Rabbit models have also shown improvement with topical nerve growth factor (NGF) in combination with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).[26] Mitomycin C worsens post-surgical dry eye.[14]

PRK may be performed on one eye at a time to assess the results of the procedure and ensure adequate vision during the healing process. Activities requiring good binocular vision may have to be suspended between surgeries and during the sometimes extended healing periods.

Halos, starbusts and refractive errors

PRK can be associated with glare, halos, and starburst aberrations, which can occur with postoperative corneal haze during the healing process. Night halos are seen more often in revisions with small ablation zone size.[27] With more recent developments in laser technology, this is less common after 6 months though symptoms can persist beyond a year in some cases.[citation needed] A dilute concentration of the chemotherapeutic agent, Mitomycin-C, can be applied briefly at the completion of surgery to reduce risk of hazing, although with increased risk of sicca.[14]

Predictability of the resulting refractive correction after healing is not totally exact, particularly for those with more severe myopia. This can lead to under/over-correction of the refractive error. In the case of the over-correction, premature presbyopia is a possibility. Experienced surgeons employ a custom-profile algorithm to further enhance predictability in their results.

In 1 to 3% of cases, loss of best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) can result, due to decentered ablative zones or other surgical complications. PRK results in improved BCVA about twice as often as it causes loss. Decentration is becoming less and less of a problem with more modern lasers using sophisticated eye centering and tracking methods.

Aviator usage

Operation of an aircraft is a visually demanding activity performed in an environment that is not always user friendly. Currently, over 50% of the civilian pilot population uses some form of visual correction. Aviators considering PRK should know that clinical trials claiming success rates of 90% or higher are based on criteria of patients' post-operative refractive errors of 20/40 or better, not 20/20 or better, uncorrected visual acuity.[citation needed]

Some PRK patients have reported dissatisfaction with their vision under low ambient lighting (dusk/nighttime) conditions. Pilots who experience postoperative vision problems could be further compromised by the variations in lighting common to the aviation environment. In addition, exposure to intense UV radiation has been associated with late-onset corneal haze and recurrence of myopia.[citation needed]

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration will consider applicants with PRK once they are fully healed and stabilized, provided there are no complications and all other visual standards are met. Pilots should be aware, however, that potential employers, such as commercial airlines and private companies, may have policies that consider refractive surgery a disqualifying condition. Also, civilians who wish to fly military aircraft should know that there are restrictions on those who have had corrective surgery. The Army now permits flight applicants who have undergone PRK or LASIK. Uncomplicated, successful corneal refractive surgery does not require a waiver and is noted as information only. [28] The Navy and Marines will routinely grant a waiver for pilots or student naval aviators to fly after PRK, assuming preoperative standards are met, no complications in the healing process were encountered and passing their standard vision tests. LASIK is currently under study for the Navy, however only current Naval Aviators can be admitted into the study. In one study, 967 of 968 naval aviators having PRK returned to duty involving flying after the procedure. In fact, the U.S. Navy now offers free PRK surgery at the National Naval Medical Center to Naval Academy Midshipmen who intend to pursue career paths requiring good uncorrected vision, including flight school and special operations training.[citation needed] The U.S. Air Force approves the use of PRK and LASIK.[29] Since 2000 the USAF has conducted PRK for aviators at the Wilford Hall Medical Center. More airmen were allowed over the years and in 2004 the USAF approved Lasik for aviators, with limits on the type of aircraft they could fly. Then in 2007 those limits were lifted.[30] Most recently in 2011 the USAF expanded the program, making it easier for more airmen to qualify for the surgery. Current airmen (Active Duty and Air Reserve Components who are eligible) are authorized surgery at any DOD Refractive Surgery Center. Those airmen not eligible, are still able to get the surgery done at their own expense by a civilian surgeon, but must first be approved (Approval is based on the same USAF-RS program[31]). Others that do not fall into those categories (i.e. applicants who are seeking a pilot slot) can still elect to have the surgery done, but must follow the criteria in accordance with the USAF Waiver Guide.[32] Those applicants will be evaluated at the ACS during their Medical Flight Screening appointment to determine if they meet waiver criteria. Applicants are strongly encouraged to read the references contained within this article as information obtained from sources other than those listed could lead to disqualification for a pilot candidate.[citation needed]

In the majority of patients, PRK has proven to be a safe and effective procedure for the correction of myopia. PRK is still evolving with other countries currently using refined techniques and alternative procedures. Many of these procedures are under investigation in the U.S. Given that PRK is not reversible, a patient considering PRK is recommended to contact an eye-care practitioner for assistance in making an informed decision concerning the potential benefits and liabilities that may be specific to him or her.[citation needed]

U.S. Army Special Operations

In the U.S.A. candidates who have had PRK can get a blanket waiver for the Special Forces Qualification, Combat Diving Qualification and Military Free Fall courses. PRK and LASIK are both waived for Airborne, Air Assault and Ranger schools. However, those who have had LASIK must enroll in an observational study, if a slot is available, to undergo training in Special Forces qualification. LASIK is disqualifying/non-waiverable for several United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) schools (HALO, SCUBA, SERE) per Army Regulation 40-501.[33]

See also


  1. ^ "Laser epithelial keratomileusis (LASEK)" Accessed June 30, 2008.
  2. ^ "PRK – Photorefractive Keratectomy" Accessed March 17, 2010
  3. ^ Taneri, Suphi; Zieske, James D.; Azar, Dimitri T. (2004). "Evolution, techniques, clinical outcomes, and pathophysiology of LASEK: Review of the literature". Survey of Ophthalmology 49 (6): 576–602. PMID 15530945. doi:10.1016/j.survophthal.2004.08.003. 
  4. ^ Camellin M. LASEK: nuova tecnica di chirurgia rifrattiva mediante laser ad eccimeri. Viscochirurgia 1998;39-43
  5. ^ a b Lee, K; Kim, H; Lee, S; Kim, E; Kim, EK (2005). "Nerve Growth Factor Concentration and Implications in Photorefractive Keratectomy vs Laser in Situ Keratomileusis". American Journal of Ophthalmology 139 (6): 965–71. PMID 15953424. doi:10.1016/j.ajo.2004.12.051. 
  6. ^ Sridhar, MS; Rao, SK; Vajpayee, RB; Aasuri, MK; Hannush, S; Sinha, R (2002). "Complications of laser-in-situ-keratomileusis". Indian journal of ophthalmology 50 (4): 265–82. PMID 12532491. 
  7. ^ Lee, JB; Ryu, CH; Kim, J; Kim, EK; Kim, HB (2000). "Comparison of tear secretion and tear film instability after photorefractive keratectomy and laser in situ keratomileusis". Journal of cataract and refractive surgery 26 (9): 1326–31. PMID 11020617. doi:10.1016/S0886-3350(00)00566-6. 
  8. ^ Mrukwa-Kominek, E; Stala, P; Gierek-Ciaciura, S; Lange, E (2006). "Assessment of tears secretion after refractive surgery". Klinika oczna 108 (1–3): 73–7. PMID 16883946. 
  9. ^ Alió, JL; Pérez-Santonja, JJ; Tervo, T; Tabbara, KF; Vesaluoma, M; Smith, RJ; Maddox, B; Maloney, RK (2000). "Postoperative inflammation, microbial complications, and wound healing following laser in situ keratomileusis". Journal of refractive surgery 16 (5): 523–38. PMID 11019867. 
  10. ^ Pisella, PJ; Godon, C; Auzerie, O; Baudouin, C (2002). "Influence of corneal refractive surgery on the lacrymal film". Journal francais d'ophtalmologie 25 (4): 416–22. PMID 12011749. 
  11. ^ Murakami, Yohko; Manche, Edward E. (2012). "Prospective, Randomized Comparison of Self-reported Postoperative Dry Eye and Visual Fluctuation in LASIK and Photorefractive Keratectomy". Ophthalmology 119 (11): 2220–4. PMID 22892151. doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2012.06.013. 
  12. ^ Hovanesian, JA; Shah, SS; Maloney, RK (2001). "Symptoms of dry eye and recurrent erosion syndrome after refractive surgery". Journal of cataract and refractive surgery 27 (4): 577–84. PMID 11311627. doi:10.1016/S0886-3350(00)00835-X. 
  13. ^ Shortt, Alex J; Allan, Bruce DS; Evans, Jennifer R (2013). Shortt, Alex J, ed. "Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews". The Cochrane database of systematic reviews 1: CD005135. PMID 23440799. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005135.pub3.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  14. ^ a b c Kymionis, GD; Tsiklis, NS; Ginis, H; Diakonis, VF; Pallikaris, I (2006). "Dry eye after photorefractive keratectomy with adjuvant mitomycin C". Journal of refractive surgery 22 (5): 511–3. PMID 16722493. 
  15. ^ a b "LASEK and PRK". Laser Eye Surgery Information. Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  16. ^ Liu XQ, Xu L, Yi CJ. Flap removal or flap preservation during LASEK surgery. Cell Biochem Biophys. 2010;57:45-48.
  17. ^
  18. ^ Fadlallah A, Fahed D, Khalil K, Dunia I, Menassa J, El Rami H, Chlela E, Fahed S. Transepithelial photorefractive keratectomy: Clinical results. J Cataract Refract Surg. 2011 Oct;37(10):1852-7
  19. ^ De Benito-Llopis, L; Teus, MA; Sánchez-Pina, JM (2008). "Comparison between LASEK with mitomycin C and LASIK for the correction of myopia of -7.00 to -13.75 D". Journal of refractive surgery 24 (5): 516–23. PMID 18494345. 
  20. ^[full citation needed]
  21. ^ "Side Effects of Laser Eye Surgery". 2011-012-18. Retrieved 2011-12-19.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  22. ^ Stein R, Stein H, Cheskes A, Symons S. Photorefractive keratectomy and postoperative pain. American Journal of Ophthalmology. 1994 March 15; 117(3):403-405.
  23. ^ Ong, NH; Purcell, TL; Roch-Levecq, AC; Wang, D; Isidro, MA; Bottos, KM; Heichel, CW; Schanzlin, DJ (2013). "Epithelial healing and visual outcomes of patients using omega-3 oral nutritional supplements before and after photorefractive keratectomy: A pilot study". Cornea 32 (6): 761–5. PMID 23132445. doi:10.1097/ICO.0b013e31826905b3. 
  24. ^ Sia, RK; Ryan, DS; Stutzman, RD; Psolka, M; Mines, MJ; Wagner, ME; Weber, ED; Wroblewski, KJ; Bower, KS (2012). "Alcohol versus brush PRK: Visual outcomes and adverse effects". Lasers in surgery and medicine 44 (6): 475–81. PMID 22674627. doi:10.1002/lsm.22036. 
  25. ^ Esquenazi, S; He, J; Li, N; Bazan, NG; Esquenazi, I; Bazan, HE (2009). "A novel platelet activating factor receptor antagonist reduces cell infiltration and expression of inflammatory mediators in mice exposed to desiccating conditions after PRK". Clinical & developmental immunology 2009: 138513. PMC 2798082. PMID 20049336. doi:10.1155/2009/138513. 
  26. ^ Esquenazi, S; Bazan, HE; Bui, V; He, J; Kim, DB; Bazan, NG (2005). "Topical combination of NGF and DHA increases rabbit corneal nerve regeneration after photorefractive keratectomy". Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 46 (9): 3121–7. PMID 16123410. doi:10.1167/iovs.05-0241. 
  27. ^ Rajan, Madhavan S.; Jaycock, Philip; O'Brart, David; Nystrom, Helene Hamberg; Marshall, John (2004). "A long-term study of photorefractive keratectomy". Ophthalmology 111 (10): 1813–24. PMID 15465541. doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2004.05.019. 
  28. ^ "CORNEAL REFRACTIVE SURGERY (ICD9 V802A/V802B)" (PDF). January 2006. Retrieved August 16, 2013. 
  29. ^ Tan, Michelle (February 28, 2011). "Eye surgery opens pilot training to wider pool". Air Force Times. 
  30. ^ "Flying jobs now open to LASIK patients". Air Force Times. May 24, 2007. 
  31. ^ "US Air Force Refractive Surgery Program Site" Accessed Aug 9, 2011
  32. ^ "USAF Waiver Guide" Accessed Aug 9, 2011
  33. ^ "Standards of Medical Fitness" (PDF). United States Army Medical Services. United States Department of the Army. 4 August 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 

External links